Interlocked, separable containers
The present invention is a set of preferably 2 (two) interlocked, but separable containers. There is a primary, free-standing container and at least one secondary container which is releasably attached to and supported by the primary container. Both containers have their own cap or opening for filling and utilizing the contents of each container. Preferably, for sports bottle applications, the combination of the interlocked containers may be held by one hand of the user. Also, preferably the 2 (two) interlocked containers may be easily and quickly separated for individual use.
 This application is a conversion of, and a continuation-in-part of prior, co-pending provisional application U.S. Ser. No. 60/170,187 filed Dec. 10, 1999, and hereby incorporated by reference.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to interlocked, but separable, containers that permit ease of handling all the containers, and ease of separation of at least one chamber for rapid use, refill and/or replacement.
 2. Related Art
 Liquid storage evolved from hollowed plant tissues through lead and clay vessels into glass bottles, metal cans and plastic containers. Scientific advancements relating to production techniques often influenced the materials used to produce these devices, and storage concerns were a major influence in device design: Roman wine vessels had hooks for hanging over the backs of animals and for stacking upon each other; Champagne bottles were given long necks for compact stacking in cramped caves or cellars; and, now thin walled cups stack within themselves.
 Material and design improvements generally addressed storage or transportation issues. However, the need to access more than one container at a moment's notice has received relatively little recognition. Some devices which attempt to address this need include: Pardo (U.S. Pat. No. 4,196,808), Green (U.S. Pat. No. 4,984,715), Green (U.S. Pat. No. D301,688), Green (U.S. Pat. No. 302,656), Eales (U.S. Pat. No. 5,135,823), Pritchard (U.S. Pat. No. D342,022) and Wehrle et at. (U.S. Pat. No. 5,692,626).
 Pardo '808 is a CLOSURE INTERLOCK AND PACKAGING APPARATUS with a means to sequentially dispense the components of a two component product.
 Green '715 discusses a TWIN COMPARTMENT SQUEEZE BOTTLE made from plastic that can express the compartments by squeezing without bottle inversion.
 Green '688 and Green '656 each depict a DUAL COMPARTMENT BOTTLE with chambers of varying volume and individual closures.
 Eales '823 describes a MODULAR MULTI-COMPARTMENT BLOW MOLDED CONTAINER with a mold configuration for a permanent or temporary mating engagement.
 Pritchard '022 portrays a COMBINED COMPARTMENTED BOTTLE AND CLOSURE where compartments of similar volume share a common opening for simultaneous distribution.
 Wehrle et al. '626 depicts an INTEGRAL DUAL COMPARTMENT CONTAINER where two bottles are positioned back-to-back relative to one another and generally affixed using horizontal and vertical flanges.
 However, the instant invention distinguishes itself from this art for several reasons:
 Pardo '808 packages two distinct containers together using a telescoping shrink wrap band and a blade tether at their respective necks. The device provides a means of attaching two individual in a manner that restricts individual mobility of the containers. In addition, the design requires means outside the containers themselves to maintain the intended structure.
 Green '715 is two integrally connected bottles. The design neither accommodates removable segmented chambers nor permits individual use of specific chambers because the volume of liquid or gas in the opposing chamber prevents full compression of the desired compartment. Green '688 and Green '656 have similar limitations.
 Eales '823 has modules that plug into one another using boss members and cavities at multiple locations. Once assembled, the multiple boss members and cavities inhibit removal of individual modules necessitating substantial effort and virtual dismantling.
 Pritchard '022 is a bottle with divided chambers and a single closure mechanism. Thus, the user must accept the contents of both chambers simultaneously.
 Wehrle et al. '626 places identical containers back-to-back using a continuously extending vertical flange. A handle spans the two containers creating a generally rectangular void below for carrying the device. Wehrle et al. requires identical containers for attachment and the rectangular void presents a loss of useable storage space.
 To date, no multi-chambered liquid storage container provides a method to attach or remove modular storage chambers from a base unit while efficiently utilizing occupied space. Such an invention is particularly useful in many industries including plumbing contracting where some pipes require dope and others soldering flux, and in portrait painting where pigments are used in drops to create custom colors. Perhaps the most appropriate application for this invention is the field of bicycle racing or other highly aerobic activity where participants utilize glucose gels for energy and, separately, water for hydration in weight and space conscious environments. For this reason, the present invention fulfills an important marketplace need.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is a set of preferably 2 (two) interlocked, but separable containers. There is a primary, free-standing container, and at least one secondary container which is releasably attached to and supported by the primary container. Both containers have their own cap or opening for filling and utilizing the contents of each container. Preferably, for sports bottle applications, the combination of the interlocked containers may be held by one hand of the user. Also, preferably the 2 (two) interlocked containers may be easily and quickly separated for individual use.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The attached drawings depict several, but not all, embodiments of the present invention.
 FIG. 1 is a side schematic view of one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 2 is a top side exploded perspective view of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1.
 FIG. 3 is a top view of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1.
 FIG. 4 is a side schematic view of an alternative embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 5 is a top view of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 4.
 FIG. 6 is a top side perspective view of another alternative embodiment of the invention.DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 The Figures depict several, but not all, embodiments of the INTERLOCKED, SEPARABLE CONTAINERS of the present invention. FIG. 1 portrays a dual container embodiment of the device. FIG. 2 portrays an exploded view of the physical breakdown of parts of this embodiment. FIG. 3 portrays a top view of this embodiment.
 FIGS. 4-6 generally depict an alternative design of the invention. In both embodiments, the preferred embodiment may utilize more than two containers in order to provide maximum user versatility and volumetric capacity.
 Referring to FIGS. 1-3, the device includes a primary base unit (2) and interlocking secondary container (4) to form a combined unit (6). Individual base unit (2), secondary container (4) and combined unit (6) may take the form of any volumetric shape. However, the preferred embodiment utilizes an overall combined unit (6) design which accommodates single-handed use by employing a limited diameter with an elongated shape along its longitudinal axis.
 For example, a generally rectangular base unit (2) like the one depicted in FIG. 1 with a footprint of 3″×3″ and 8″−11″ tall is appropriate. Also, a generally rectangular secondary container (4) like the one depicted in FIG. 1 with a footprint of 1½″×3″ and 4″−5″ tall is also appropriate. This way, the combined unit (6) may be held by one hand of the user.
 However, interlocked, separable containers of other dimensions are also contemplated to be within the scope of the invention. For example, larger containers for 2-or more - component industrial applications may be provided. In this group would be container combinations for fuel and additives, for pesticide and carrier, and for adhesive reagents, etc. Also, smaller container combinations for alcoholic mixed drinks, for medical supply components, etc. may also be used.
 Primary base unit (2) has slide (8) extending upwardly from top side curved surface (10). Secondary container (4) has corresponding slot 12 extending downwardly into its bottom side curved surface 14. Slide (8) and slot (12) cooperate and interfit so that secondary container (4) is attached to and supported by base unit (2) when slot (12) is slid over slide (8). This attachment and support may also be obtained by other means. For example, the slide portion may be on secondary container (4), and the slot portion may be on base unit (2). Or, the two containers may be connected with a snap-in-and-out construction or a hook and loop fastener construction. Other, conventional connector constructions may also be used.
 In any event, the connection between base unit (2) and secondary container (4) needs to be secure, so that the two containers stay together, even during periods of rough transport or use. Also, by means of or with the aid of this connection, base unit (2) supports secondary container (4). By “support”, we mean the base unit (2) holds secondary container (4) up in the sense that secondary container (4) “hangs” from base unit (2) (see FIGS. 1 and 2). Or base unit (2) holds secondary container (4) up in the sense that container (4) “sits on” unit (2) (see FIGS. 4 and 6). Also, “support” means “to keep from tripping over” in the sense that if, for example, secondary container (4) is nearly as tall as base unit (2), but smaller or similar in diameter, then base unit (2) assists secondary container (4) to stand upright without falling over, due to their being connected.
 Both base unit (2) and secondary container (4) have caps 16 and 16′, respectively for filling and utilizing the contents of each container. Caps 16 and 16′ may be of conventional design, including screw-on or friction-fit, or even integrally formed. Also, the caps may be conventional nipples fitted with open/close valves, including one or more stage type valves in terms of the volume of flow from the nipple. Also, the caps or nipples may be one size or style on base unit (2), and a different size or style on secondary container (4). This way, during use the user may select specifically one cap for one container over the other simply by feel of the nipple, therefore not requiring the user to direct the eyes to the combined unit (6) in order to select the desired nipple.
 Construction of the invention may utilize metallic, semi-metallic and/or non-metallic materials: semi-rigid materials permit users to compress a chamber to remove its contents while allowing it to return to its original shape; rigid materials such as lightweight aluminum may support materials which insulate hot liquids; and inert compounds permit the storing of various corrosive materials, etc. Preferably, the secondary container is made of a semi-rigid, plastic material. The preferred embodiment permits the user to utilize containers of various chemical composition in order to store their preferred liquids whether edible or toxic.
 Referring to FIGS. 4 - 6, there are depicted three views of two alternative embodiments of the invention, numbered similarly in terms of call-out items as in FIGS. 1 - 3.
 Although this invention has been described above with reference to particular means, materials and embodiments, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to these disclosed particulars, but extends instead to all equivalents within the scope of the following claims.
1. A plurality of interlocking, separable containers, wherein
- all of the containers have their own opening for filling and utlizing the contents of each container,
- and wherein one of the containers supports another one of the containers.
2. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- one of the containers hangs from another one of the containers.
3. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- one of the containers sits on another one of the containers.
4. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- one of the containers keeps another one of the containers from tipping over.
5. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- there are two containers.
6. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- there are more than two containers.
7. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- two of the containers are interlocked by a slide on one of the containers, and a cooperating slot on another one of the containers.
8. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- two of the containers are interlocked by a snap-in-and-out construction.
9. The plurality of containers of
- claim 1 wherein
- two of the containers are interlocked by a hook and loop fastener construction.